By David Rogers. November 22, 2019. BOONE, NC — Taking nothing away from the Pioneer playmakers who tallied 659 yards of total offense, but the Watauga offensive line buckled up their chin straps and blasted off against Kannapolis-A L Brown. Their stalwart performance allowed the Pioneers to roll up 602 rushing yards in defeating Brown, 55-27.
COVER IMAGE: Jaiden Bond had one of the biggest rushing games of his storied Watauga football career, with 259 yards on 14 carries, an 18.5 yards per carry average, and two TDs.
With rain-free temperatures in the high 40s Friday night at Jack Groce Stadium, it was perfect football weather for the second round game of the 2019 North Carolina 3AA State Championship tournament. And Watauga’s ball-control, offensive scheme that emphasizes rushing was executed to near perfection.
The Wonders of A L Brown had no answer for the Pioneers’ ground assault as senior wingback Jaiden Bond carried the ball 14 times for a game-high 259 yards, an average of 18.5 yards per carry, including two TDs. Right behind him, statistically, was senior quarterback Anderson Castle, who kept the ball 28 times for 252 yards, a 9.0 yards per carry average, while accounting for a game-high five TDs.
Keys to the Game
- Watauga’s offensive line has gelled into arguably the program’s best ever. The unit executed their blocking schemes with precision, opening gaps in the line of scrimmage that allowed the key playmakers to get into the second and third levels of K-Brown defense.
- The Pioneers’ high level of fitness that permits many of the best skilled athletes to play both ways, offense and defense.
- A defensive unit that was well-prepared to stop Kannapolis’ own powerful offensive attack. The Wonders’ sophomore QB, Cam Kromah, was under pressure in virtually every passing situation and the K-Brown rushing attack was neutralized.
- Big games carrying the ball by Anderson Castle, who excels at option reads, and Jaiden Bond, who plays much bigger than his size — with speed.
Pioneer senior B-back Jake Watson rushed 10 times for 46 yards and a TD, while junior wingback Sebastian Best carried five times for 45 yards. Both were instrumental in picking up key first downs to extend Watauga possessions.
As impressive as Watauga was on offense, it was equally impressive on defense. The Pioneers throttled back a highly-touted A L Brown offense that had athletic playmakers with speed. Cam Kromah, the Wonders’ 6-3, 185 lb. sophomore quarterback is a versatile athlete, but only gained 41 yards rushing on six carries. He had better success through the air, completing 12 of 26 passes for 200 yards and three touchdowns.
Kannapolis-Brown won the toss and elected to defer, giving Watauga the opportunity to draw first blood on the game’s first possession. They moved the ball 66 yards in seven plays, all runs. The series was highlighted by a 17-yard jet sweep by Best to get the ball in Wonders territory on the game’s second play and a 16-yard scamper by Bond to get the ball to the K-Brown 4-yard line. That’s where Castle punched it in for the first of his five TDs.
Watauga never trailed in the game. In fact, the Wonders’ offense did not score against the Pioneers in the first half. The lone Kannapolis-Brown TD before intermission came with 5:44 left in the second quarter and the Pioneers already laying claim to a 20-0 lead. On a Castle keeper around the left side, the senior QB was corraled for what would have been a four-yard loss, but he lost the ball and it was alertly scooped up on the run by 6-1, 265-lb. junior defensive tackle Terry Williams. The big lineman showed good speed and athleticism in sprinting 52-yards for the Wonders’ first score of the game.
The large contingent of Kannapolis-Brown fans on the opposite sideline broke into hopeful cheers after the fumble recovery and TD-producing return, but their hopes were quickly dashed when Bond found his way through the Wonders’ defensive line for a 58 yard TD romp, on Watauga’s next possession, at the 4:04 mark of the second quarter. As a consequence, the Pioneers took a commanding, 27-7 lead into halftime.
The remaining four minutes of the first half were not without some thrills and spills, however. Brown kept the ball on offense for seven plays, getting the ball down into Watauga territory where the Wonders failed to convert a first down on 4th-and-4 from the WAT 40, taking all but 1:30 off the clock before the half.
Given the short field, Castle engineered a four play drive that got the ball down to the Wonders’ 4-yard line, with 3 seconds left. A play-action pass intended for Grant Oliver on the right side of the end zone was picked off by Brown’s Khalil Blanton and downed for a touchback. Kromah gained 11 yards on a pass completed to wide receiver Jose Vargas, but the clock ran out and the teams retreated to their respective locker rooms with WHS ahead, 27-7.
Kannapolis opened the second half with a three-and-out, and forced to punt. Castle & Co. made quick work of their next possession, driving the ball 62 yards in just five plays, highlighted by Bond running to the Wonders’ 4-yard line on a 41 yard run. Castle punched it in for yet another Pioneer TD and with the Carter Everett PAT, the Pioneers led 34-7.
On their respective next possessions, the two teams traded TDs, both featuring big plays. For the Wonders, Kromah hurled a 55-yard catch-and-run to make it 34-14. Castle responded with a 56-yard TD run that delivered a crushing blow to any remiaining hopes for a comeback rally that might have been harbored by the K-Brown faithful.
While the proverbial “fat lady” had begun to hum a few bars in anticipation of a Watauga final win, the Pioneers scored two more times while allowing Brown to score one more time, too.
The victory advances Watauga into the 3AA West bracket semifinals for the second year in a row. Next Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the #2-seeded Pioneers will host the West’s #6 seed, Mt. Tabor. The Winston-Salem based Spartans defeated the #3 seed, Dudley of Greensboro on Friday night, 37-21.
With a 4-1 Piedmont Triad 3A Conference finish in a 3-way tie with Dudley and Parkland, Mt. Tabor will bring its 9-4 overall record into Jack Groce Stadium next week to face the #2 seeded Watauga. The Spartans’ losses came against Ronald Reagan HS of Pffaftown, East Forsyth of Kernersville, West Forsyth (Clemmons) and at Winston-Salem’s Parkland.
Mt. Tabor’s season opener, a 14-7 loss to Reagan, may be the best indication of the matchup since Reagan is Watauga’s only common opponent this season. The Pioneers lost to 4AA powerhouse Reagan, 63-35, at the Raiders home stadium.
Blowing Rock Newshound “Players of the Game”
- OFFENSE: Anderson Castle and Jaiden Bond, both over 200 yards rushing, each
- DEFENSE: Adrion Cassidy, two tackles for loss
- SPECIAL TEAMS: Sebastian Best, 27-yard kickoff return in the 3rd quarter
SELECTED TEAM STATS — Game statistics compiled by Jonathan Watson
- Total Offense — WAT 659, ALB 283
- Rushing yards — WAT 602, ALB 83
- Passing yards — WAT 57, ALB 200
- Penalties — WAT 6-45, ALB 7-70
- Turnovers — WAT 2, ALB 0
- Fumbles-Lost — WAT 2-1, ALB 0-0
- Interceptions Thrown — WAT 1, ALB 0
- Time of Possession — WAT 26:09, ALB 9:28
- 3rd Down Conversions — WAT 5/7 (71%), ALB 3/10 (30%)
- 4th Down Conversions — WAT 1/1 (100%), ALB 1/2 (50%)
SELECTED INDIVIDUAL STATS
- ALB – Cam Kromah 12-26, 200 yards, 3 TDs
- WAT – Anderson Castle 2-3, 57 yards, 1 INT
- WAT – Jaiden Bond 0-1
- WAT – Jaiden Bond: 14 carries, 259 yards, 18.5 avg., 2 TDs
- WAT – Anderson Castle: 28 carries, 252 yards, 9.0 avg., 5 TDs
- WAT – Jake Watson: 10 carries, 46 yards, 4.6 avg., 1 TD
- WAT – Sebastian Best: 5 carries, 45 yards, 9.0 avg.
- ALB – Cam Kromah: 6 carries, 41 yards, 6.8 avg.
- ALB – Jakhiry Bennett: 10 carries, 36 yards, 3.6 avg.
- ALB – Todd Kennedy: 2 carries, 6 yards, 3.0 avg.
- ALB – Isaiah Black, 2-65, 1 TD
- ALB – CJ Wilson, 1-41
- WAT – Jaiden Bond, 1-36
- ALB – Jose Vargas, 3-35, 1 TD
- ALB – Austin Grunden, 2-24, 1 TD
- WAT – Sebastian Best, 1-21
Selected Watauga Defensive Stats
- Mitchell Greene — 4.5 tackles
- Grant Oliver — 4.0 tackles
- Jaiden Bond — 3.5 tackles
- Adrion Cassidy — 3.0 tackles, 2 TFLs